May 30, 2009

First Russian space walker turns 75

Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in space, marked his 75 birthday Saturday with a telegram from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

You belong to the eminent corps of Russia's first cosmonauts, Dmitry said, calling Leonov a man of the highest professionalism and personal courage.

Leonov, twice honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union, was one of 20 Russian air force pilots selected as the first cosmonaut group in 1960, Itar-Tass reported Saturday.

He made his historic 12-minute, 9-second space walk March 18, 1965 and in July 1975 commanded a Soyuz spacecraft that docked with NASA's Apollo space capsule in the first joint flight of the U.S. and Russian space programs.